Archive for May, 2009

As we are all aware, the City has experienced two serious fires in the past month that bring the condition of our aging water distribution system and hydrants to light. In response to these tragic fires, I submit the following report as to immediate and long-term actions the City has taken and is making to address identified deficiencies.


After the first fire on Mechanic Street, City Engineer Richard Phillips, Fire Chief Rich Liberti, Corporation Council Gerry DeCusatis and I met on April 27th to discuss our concerns. From that meeting, the following actions had been taken:

Water flow had been tested in the Mechanic Street vicinity. The testing is now being expanded to the surrounding area which will encompass approximately forty hydrants, concentrating on hydrants connected by 4″ lines. We hope to complete this action within ten days. We will systematically document findings in order to develop a comprehensive hydrant strategy.

Every city-owned, vacant property was assessed for safety. An officer from the AFD walked around each structure to identify need for securing the building or if there were any hazardous or flammable materials that needed to be removed. Corrective measures were recommended to appropriate staff.

The hydrant flushing program is nearing completion and a detailed report is being generated, documenting hydrants that are problematic or out of service.

An additional hydrant module was added to the Alpine fire department/code enforcement software purchase (cost split between AFD and Engineering) to map location of hydrants and water lines. The County has provided information for the module which is suspected to have been generated from a model that was produced by McDonald Engineering several years ago.

The Common Council has budgeted for the purchase and installation of thirty new hydrants to replace the most compromised of our 1,200 hydrants around the city. McDonald Engineering will prepare bid documents and help develop replacement strategy.


Today, we fine tuned our plan:

Fire Chief Richard Liberti will immediately develop an operational plan for emergency response on the hill, to ensure a water source is secured in the event of another fire.

City Engineer Richard Phillips will request submittal of the flushing report from the water crew.

The Engineer and Chief will meet with Tom Bates of McDonald Engineering to review a large map of the hydrants and water lines in the City, especially focusing on targeted areas of concern. We will assess what the older model McDonald contained, what we may use it for now and how it should be updated. Our long range goal will to be to incorporate GIS information into a digital mapping system for use in emergency response, planning, tracking, and maintenance of the water distribution structures.

Engineering, DPW and the AFD will be provided updated, color-coded maps which will be posted at each department for training, planning and response purposes.

We will determine the GIS coordinates of each hydrant and valve. We would like to work with college interns over the summer to gather this information, but this work may need to be hired out. This information will be incorporated into the Alpine software.

We will put together a comprehensive hydrant strategy:
– develop full inventory of hydrants (address, hydrant number, GIS location)
– determine flow rates for each (may need to be hired out)
– identify problems/prioritize response
– gather hydrant specs, history of specific hydrants
– ascertain maintenance needs: man hours per hydrant
– develop maintenance schedule, new reporting documents and protocols
– number and color-code hydrants to indicate pressure at source
– review flushing procedure with water crews to ensure turbulent flow at flushing
– fall winterization program

Managing staff will be meeting several times over the next month to move these tasks forward. Any questions or comments may be made to my office: mayorthane@choiceonemail.com.

Lastly, it should be noted that we do not have a “fire bug” starting these fires. The Mechanic Street fire was started by a thirteen old boy with a lighter and a spray can. We think the Orange Street fire may have been started by the cigarette of a resident.

Photos by Mark Perfetti

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Thank you so much to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this event this year and asking me to attend. We are all grateful for the work you do on behalf of the Veterans of our community year round – from the careful tending of monuments to continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well.


We are all called today to pay tribute to the many men and women that have died as soldiers fighting for the principles that make our country great… liberty, democracy, honor, valor, discipline, and selfless service to others. Frequently we cite the words “fallen comrades” and “ultimate sacrifice”. These are words we speak easily as we gather together to give an hour of our lives to this ceremony. For some of us, our minds may skip lightly over these words and concepts. They roll off our tongues and in listening, our minds may wander to the weather, the decorum, our families, or our busy lives.

We must stop our reverie.

Because what we have come here to do is terribly important. We must remember. We must remember that what we honor are not faceless names. These were young souls with stories to tell and more to live for. These were the faithful husbands, sisters, nephews, fathers, sons, neighbors and friends, most barely out of school, barley kissed, that had gone off from so many different circumstances to meet a common end, all in service to us.

The enormity of our loss is too important to blithely pass by. Our city and country have lost more than we can know. These family members deserve our full attention and obligation. The music of their lives is forever gone from us and we must be deeply and completely moved by grief and loss. What we have lost can never be regained… the glances, the gentle touches, smiles, children, comedy, commerce, creativity, ingenuity, determination and love.

Love, most of all.


We must understand this loss with the constricted heart of someone receiving first word that their loved one will never return… the agony of a mother that will never hold her child again, a father that will not pass on the keys to the business or walk someone down the isle, a child that will not remember a parent’s laugh by the time they are ten. We must be breathless in our knowing. We must know the full weight of silence.

And yet, we must know gratitude. For God has granted us not only those that have given their lives for our peace and prosperity, but a community that honors these passings, and individuals that continue to dutifully care for the memories of our fallen heros. To these veteran men and women, we owe our continued thanks and support. And to those that proudly wear our uniform and honor our flag around the world today, we owe our praise and deepest appreciation. To those many fine soldiers, we all pray, come back to us safely in God’s hands.


Top photo by Mark Perfetti, Bottom photo by Sarah Thane

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The ever articulate City Historian Robert van Hasseln has written an in-depth informational piece concerning the Chalmers project in the Recorder today. All points should be given careful consideration. It can be viewed by clicking here.

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There’s little that Bob Going and I agree about these days, but today he reposted a recording on his blog from October 2001 that is as important as it is deeply moving.

On the night of that show, the Amsterdam Oratorio, women passed out tissues to the waiting audience, which I thought was quite over the top…

until the performance began and I cried pretty much through the whole show.

I thank Mr. Going for putting up this collage of photos and the recording of the performance, “Requiem”, on YouTube. It says more about this community than anything I know.

Bravo to our composer, Maria Riccio-Brice.
God Bless our hometown.
God bless these particular young men
and all that go so bravely away never to return.
God bless the silence that takes their place.

Don’t forget.

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The City of Amsterdam is asking residents to get out their cameras to photograph the City! We are looking for pictures that capture just how beautiful and community-oriented Amsterdam really is for use on our soon-to-launch website and in printed marketing materials. IMG_1007 If you would like to participate, we’d love you to get creative with your shots – take pictures of your family, home, gardens, pets, activities and teams. Provide us with your interpretation of the beauty and close-knit nature of our City. Printed photos or digital images on CD with name, address and phone number may be submitted for consideration to the Mayor’s office at City Hall, 61 Church Street, Amsterdam, NY. Please submit your work by June 8th, though photos will be accepted year round as we update our site.

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I took a walk at lunchtime today, as it’s been far too long since I’d been out and about on my own two feet between the hours 8am and 6pm. There were so many projects, concerns, costs, politics and complaints, the office air was dense with them.

I headed up Church Street with purpose, lost in thought. My eyes followed the cement walk I traveled, hit my toes and bounced to the couple of paces ahead… the sidewalk, the road, my cares and the cars speeding by, sucking dust around my feet.

As I walked, I began to observe the green to my right. The insistent grasses, coiling grape vines, and peppering of small white flowers drew more and more of my attention. Very shortly, I was looking up into the honeysuckle and choke cherries, and further into the leaning canopy of trees.

The office was a lifetime away.

It’s amazing how unabashedly persistent and certain life is. I was forced to remember this thanks to a twenty minute walk up the hill. And what really struck me, yet again, was that this City will re-emerge after its long decline, because it lives. No matter the past, the economy, the pouting or the doubt. It will come back. I realized that I believe this with every fiber of my being.

I was able to return to the office quite refreshed.

I think I’ll be taking a walk every day.

photo by Sarah Thane

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Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting
your heart toward heaven — only you.
It is in the middle of misery that
so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good came of this,
is not yet listening.

– clarissa pinkola estés

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